Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Field of Dreams

As a kid we all had lived dual lives. There were lives lived inside the classroom, where the importance of academic excellence was drilled down into our heads - how solving math problems, memorizing multiplication tables, mugging up dates taught in history classes, racking our brains on trigonometry and Pythagoras theorems would help us secure a future with a prestigious degree (as in B.E) and would lay a foundation for a "golden" career (as in Software programming). Then there was the other life, the one outside the classroom inside a playing field, where for that two hours in a day we chose to forget and not care about math equations, the history of India, the state capital of Nagaland, and countries that lay near the equator. For that brief moment we became what we wanted to be, the Superstars of the game we adored - Cricket.

Everyday as I walk past the playground that once existed nearby my home, there seeps in a feeling of nostalgia. I never was an "outdoor sports" kind of person. I was always the last guy to be picked in any team, I never owned a cricket bat, I was too scared of fast bowling, I could not remember more than two instances where I could have held on to a ball without dropping it. To sum it up, I was picked only because my mother was a teacher at the school where most of the kids studied. My only attempt to stop a ball would be to awkwardly cover my face in a flash when it was hit toward me. It would be hard to even fathom how a boy who could not hold the bat, nor throw a ball be picked in a team. When the boys around me would be playing the game with a seriousness that involved making strategies in a huddle for the 12-year old Master Blaster of the neighborhood who played with a picture-perfect cover drive that even Sachin would be proud of, I on the other hand played the game with a callousness. Imagine the Joker playing the game of cricket, he would cackle away heinously with every attempted wild swing of the bat that would miss the ball by almost a yard, well that was me. The captain of my team, which always ended up losing would often be chastised for having picked me in the team, but the poor lad had no other option but to fend for me, for he had a Social Sciences assignment to be submitted the next morning... to my mother.

And come summer vacations we all would turn into cricketers with a seriousness as if we are having plans of participating in the world cup. With the sun beating down our backs and the worry of summer projects to be submitted postponed to the last days of the vacation, we would enter the playing field as Men on a Mission, ignoring our mothers' call to come home on time for lunch. The seriousness of the other lads at times would turn out to be infectious as I would whole-heartedly make efforts to catch the ball, but the results would be the same nevertheless. We played till the Sun got tired of witnessing our play and would decide to go to bed, the rest of the evening would be spent with the boys in the dimly lit field strategizing for the next day's play. And as I went to bed, I would make a note of the scores I made for the day in a log book - 1, 3, 4, 12, 5.

There was something about that field which made us young boys act like men and grown men act like boys once we stepped on it. The field had something mystical about it, for a brief moment of time in a day we boys stopped worrying about homeworks and assignments and exams, for a brief moment of time the men would stop worrying about their job and responsibilities, for a brief moment they would have regained their lost childhood. It was the thrill of playing the game we loved along with the people we knew that made us vibrant. It was the glorious sun, it was the thrill of playing in front of the neighborhood, to be applauded by the people we knew that made us play those expansive strokes we saw on T.V. It was an era when we hadn't heard of the Internet, let alone Youtube as we tried to match each shot, each delivery and each jump to what we had seen on the television the last night.

With the girls in the neighborhood keeping an eye on the proceedings, that was as good a reason as any for a few of us to jump around and act like we were captaining our national team. We would do a few lunges and a few stretches nonchalantly as if the fate of the team depended on the strengths of our shoulders, the claps and the encouragement from the neighborhood uncles and aunts and their daughters would only make us act more like the cricketers we saw on T.V, as we chewed our gum even more stylishly with the mouths doing a complete circle, and a huddle held after every delivery bowled to discuss the field placement, add to that a "C'mon boys!" with an Aussie accent shouted every minute any outsider would feel like they were watching a match going on between future international stars.

But as years grew along so did we, and with that changed our responsibilities and priorities. The field that once lay beside my home is now encroached with apartments and a lot of houses. The Playstations and the X-boxes have now become our virtual playground. No more do I hear young boys crying in anguish over a dropped catch, no more do I hear grown men shouting instructions on how to bowl, no more do I hear kids embrace each other over a match won shouting in joy, basking in their moment of glory. Yet, if I prick my ears up as I walk past the field, I could still hear that roar of joy, those claps of the neighborhood and the shout of an enthusiastic kid yelling "C'mon boys!" egging up his other mates.

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